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Homeless Shelter Opens Doors to Pregnant Women and Others

Posted on 04. Dec, 2012 by in 2012 News, Blog, Enforcement News, Participate (for sidebar)

On December 3, 2012, at the urging of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), the New Orleans Mission agreed to implement a policy of non-discrimination.  The agreement ends a nearly yearlong process of negotiation over the Mission’s previous, longstanding policy of refusing shelter to women who are more than six months pregnant. The matter stemmed from the Mission’s refusal to house a woman because she was seven months pregnant.  Read More…

Federal Judge Grants Motion for Summary Judgment in Housing Discrimination Case Against St. Bernard Parish

Posted on 19. Oct, 2012 by in 2012 News, Education News, St. Bernard Parish

On October 17, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted a motion for summary judgment filed by Plaintiffs Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) and Provident Realty Advisors, in a long running housing discrimination case against St. Bernard Parish.  The decision signals that the Plaintiffs won the case on the merits, and that there is no need to go to trial.  Further, the court’s order grants Plaintiffs’ latest motion to hold St. Bernard Parish in contempt of court and awards Plaintiffs reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

The most recent ruling came in response to a motion for summary judgment in the case filed by GNOFHAC and Provident Realty Advisors in July of this year.  According to the motion, “the conduct at issue in the relevant time period involved issuing repeated cease and desist orders, withholding the release of critical municipal services, refusing to provide feedback and information on construction specifications, refusing to issue renewed building permits, and delaying construction by seeking to enforce inapplicable codes.”  The conduct took place throughout 2011.

Also on October 17, 2012, the court adopted a Magistrate Judge’s recommendation to award plaintiffs GNOFHAC and Provident Realty Advisors over $500,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs in relation to three contempt rulings issued against St. Bernard Parish in 2011.  The motions covered behavior that the Parish engaged in throughout the course of 2011 aimed at preventing the development of mixed income multi-family housing in St. Bernard.

St. Bernard Parish’s repeated actions to delay construction on Provident Realty Advisors’ four multi-family housing developments in St. Bernard Parish at issue in the summary judgment motion were a continuation of a long string of race-based attempts to block multi-family housing developments in the Parish.  Racial discrimination has been a clear and consistent theme throughout the course of GNOFHAC’s multi-year litigation against St. Bernard Parish, during which the Parish has repeatedly been held in contempt for violating a 2008 Consent Order.

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments, “After years of protracted litigation, we were pleased to have witnessed new homes coming on line in St. Bernard Parish through the opening of the Provident apartments.  This week’s orders from the court signal that the Parish will be held responsible for its illegal, discriminatory actions.  Meanwhile, we remain committed to ensuring equal housing opportunity throughout our region.”

Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC represented GNOFHAC in these matters.

Click here for a copy of GNOFHAC’s motion for summary judgment described in this release.

Click here for Judge Helen Berrigan’s order granting the motion for summary judgment.

Click here for Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan’s Report and Recommendations regarding attorneys’ fees and costs.

Click here for Judge Berrigan’s order adopting Judge Shushan’s Recommendations regarding attorneys’ fees and costs

Click here for a comprehensive timeline of GNOFHAC’s St. Bernard Parish litigation

Fair Housing Center Shares Ideas with White House

Posted on 18. Sep, 2012 by in 2012 News, Blog, Participate (for sidebar)

On September 13, Louisiana community leaders, advocates, and housing experts traveled to the Nation’s Capital to meet with White House officials about implementing the necessary solutions to the housing crisis that has enveloped Louisiana.

American families continue to face a crisis in housing, with 2 million foreclosure filings this year, and millions more at risk. Over 15 million homeowners are underwater, meaning that their home is worth less than they owe on their mortgage.

Close to 60,000 homeowners faced foreclosure in Louisiana from 2009-2012, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.  While the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center’s homeownership protection program works to provide delinquency and default counseling to individuals in trouble, systemic issues must be addressed. Read More…

Fair Housing Center Wins Prize in International Competition for Innovative Youth Programs

Posted on 14. Jun, 2012 by in 2012 News, Education News, News

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) is pleased to announce that its “Equal Opportunity Game” youth workshop has been selected as a winner of the Ashoka Changemakers “Activating Empathy” competition.  The purpose of the “Activating Empathy” competition is to identify innovative projects that build empathy and leadership skills in young people.  GNOFHAC’s game and fair housing curriculum was one of 628 entries from 74 countries, and is among four projects selected to receive the “Mattel Prize for Play.”

The Equal Opportunity Game is an interactive board game for students in grades four through eight that demonstrates the impact of housing discrimination on a family’s access to resources and opportunity.  GNOFHAC staff developed the game in partnership with local educators in 2010, and have shared the curriculum with dozens of schools and advocacy organizations and hundreds of young people in Louisiana, as well as Mobile, AL, and Grand Rapids, MI.  The Equal Opportunity Game is part of a larger set of curricular materials GNOFHAC has developed for youth, including its children’s book The Fair Housing Five & the Haunted House, in an effort to provide information about fair housing to families and educate a new generation of leaders about civil rights and equity.  More information is available at www.fairhousingfive.org.

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments, “We are honored to have been selected as a winner of the ‘Activating Empathy’ competition.  We look forward to the opportunity to share our board game and curricula with more educators, advocates, and young people across the country.”

Download the press release here.

Fair Housing Center and U.S. Department of Justice File Suit Against St. Bernard Parish Over Racial Discrimination in Housing

Posted on 01. Feb, 2012 by in 2012 News, Enforcement News, News, St. Bernard Parish

On Tuesday, January 31, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) along with several individual St. Bernard Parish property owners filed a lawsuit in federal court against St. Bernard Parish alleging that the permissive use permit process (PUP process) adopted by the Parish in 2006 is racially discriminatory in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the Parish, alleging that the Parish “violated the Fair Housing Act by engaging in a multi-year campaign to limit rental housing opportunities for African-Americans in the parish.” Both suits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

GNOFHAC’s latest complaint alleges that Parish officials “enacted and enforced the PUP Ordinance as part of their overarching and persistent efforts to maintain St. Bernard Parish as a predominantly white enclave.” Further, according to the complaint, Parish officials “enforced the PUP Ordinance by discouraging homeowners from submitting applications, refusing to accept applications, issuing cease and desist orders, and threatening significant fines and judicial enforcement actions.” The suit prays for relief in the form injunctive relief, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

These latest suits stem from civil rights violations on the part of the Parish that have unfolded over the course of more than five years. GNOFHAC has successfully challenged St. Bernard’s two previous multi-family construction moratoria, and an ordinance that restricted the rental of single-family residences to those related by blood to the owner of the property. In 2008, the Parish agreed to enter into a consent decree. However, the Parish and the Parish Council have repeatedly been held in contempt by a federal judge for violating the 2008 Consent Order. Racial discrimination has been a clear and consistent theme throughout the course of the legal battle.

GNOFHAC Executive Director comments “We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice has taken such a strong stance against racial discrimination in housing by filing suit against St. Bernard Parish, but regret that such drastic action has been necessary. Everyone should have an opportunity to choose where they want to live regardless of their race and we sincerely hope that new Parish leadership will take the appropriate steps necessary to end discrimination on the part of the Parish once and for all.”

Relman, Dane, and Colfax PLLC represented GNOFHAC in this matter.

1-31-12 Download the press release here.

1-31-12 Read the full GNOFHAC complaint here.

1-31-12 Read the full complaint filed by the U.S. Dept of Justice here.

1-31-12 Read the Nola.com article “Department of Justice applies legal muscle to St. Bernard Parish” here or download

1-31-12 Read the AP article “Feds sue St. Bernard Parish over housing” here or download

1-31-12 Watch the WDSU segment “Parish accused of limiting housing for African-Americans” here or download the article here

2-3-12 Read the Nola.com editorial “Resolve housing dispute in St. Bernard Parish” here or download

For a comprehensive timeline of the St. Bernard Parish litigation, click here.